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Monday April 15, 2024

President Arif Alvi invites CEC for meeting to fix polls date

Dr Alvi wrote that he dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, 2023, on the advice of the prime minister

By Asim Yasin, Mumtaz Alvi & m saleh zaafir
August 24, 2023
President Dr Arif Alvi while speaking in an interview. — AFP/File
President Dr Arif Alvi while speaking in an interview. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: Through a letter on Wednesday, President Dr Arif Alvi has invited Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja for a meeting today (Thursday) to fix an ‘appropriate date’ for the general elections in the country.

Dr Alvi wrote that he dissolved the National Assembly on August 9, 2023, on the advice of the prime minister.

Dr Alvi stated that under Article 48 (5) of the Constitution, the president is obliged to appoint date not later than 90 days from the date of dissolution for holding of general election of the assembly. The president also mentioned the Clause 5 of Article 48 for ready reference in his letter, which read as, “(5) where the President dissolves the National Assembly (notwithstanding anything contained in clause (1), he shall,-

(a) Appoint a date not letter than ninety days from the date of the dissolution for the holding of a general election to the Assembly; and (b) Appoint a caretaker cabinet in accordance with the provisions of Article 224 or, as the case may be, Article 224A”. According to a source in the ECP, the chief election commissioner will meet the president today in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) formally invited top leadership of four mainstream political parties for consultations on delimitation of constituencies, up-dating electoral rolls, conduct of general elections and other related matters.

Invitation, titled ‘Meeting regarding electoral roadmap’, has been dispatched to former president Asif AIi Zardari, who is president of PPP Parliamentarians, ex-premiers Shehbaz Sharif and Imran Khan, who head Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf as president and chairman respectively and JUIF chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Imran is presently lodged in Attock jail.

Both Imran and JUIF chief have been invited for consultations on August 24 (today) at 2pm and 3pm respectively at the Election Commission Secretariat here. Shehbaz has been invited on August 25 (tomorrow) at 11am while consultation with Zardari has been fixed for August 29 (Tuesday) at 3pm.

These leaders have been requested to either attend the meeting in person or through their authorised representatives. It is widely speculated that the party heads may not be able to attend the planned activity for one reason or the other.

The text of the ECP’s invitation says, “As you are aware that the Election Commission of Pakistan is charged with the constitutional duty to organise and conduct elections in terms of Article 218 (3) of the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly and in accordance with the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.

“Keeping in view the current political scenario, the Election Commission has decided to take on board and invite your party to discuss the electoral road map with your feedback on the agenda items: Delimitation of constituencies, updation of electoral rolls, conduct of general elections, schedule of elections and other related matters,” the invitation reads.

Following the ECP invitation, the PMLN has formed a seven-member delegation comprising party Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal, Senator Azam Nazir Tarar, Zahid Hamid, Punjab President Rana Sanaullah Khan, Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa President Engineer Amir Maqam and Deputy Secretary General Ataullah Tarar. Former federal minister Marriyum Aurengzeb has also issued a statement regarding the invitation and its acceptance by the PMLN.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) in its full house session today (Thursday) will take up the invitation of President Alvi for a meeting with the CEC.

Highly placed ECP sources told ‘The News’ that since the ECP couldn’t consider the president’s letter during the day, no response could be given in this regard.

Some constitutional experts are of the view that the letter of the president was a futile exercise. Summoning of any head of constitutional entities by the president for a purpose which has no business with the President’s Office appears to be frivolous, the experts opined.

The sources said that the ECP could write a letter to the president for reminding him of legal position in the matter that he had raised. The sources have referred to the Election Act’s recent amendment passed by the two houses of Parliament.

The sources in the presidency told this scribe that in case the CEC declined the request of the president for the meeting, Dr Alvi could unilaterally announce a date for general elections in the country either today or Friday.